Do All Religions “Suck”?

June 14, 2021

A couple of days ago, I happened to find myself a lane over and behind a compact car that sported two identical bumper stickers which read:  “All Religions Suck.”  I guess the driver wanted to make her or his point twice.  I wished at that moment that I could have stopped the car and gone over to the driver and had a conversation about the bumper stickers.  What was the story, the experience, that led this person to so emphatically pronounce this opinion?  All religions suck?  Not, perhaps, just a few?  But the traffic light changed, the car turned off the main road, and I am stuck wondering, days later, about those bumper stickers.

Having been raised in a dogmatic Christian Church which eventually I left, I can understand how a person can be wounded by religion.  I still fight that old, ingrained guilt instinct.  But I didn’t leave religion; I moved on to something more in line with the Christ as my soul understands the Christ to be.  Having pastored churches for almost twenty years, I can understand why someone would resist the autocratic system of so many of our denominations, along with the rules that sometimes make quite clear who is “in” and who is “out.”  I understand religion’s insider lingo and have worked to make the language more welcoming, clear, and inclusive.  I’ve seen, and even been part of, the “raw meat” work of institutionalized religion, aware that sometimes what we do doesn’t match what we say we believe.  Religion is, after all, a human product and therefore flawed, no matter whose religion it is.

But I wonder if it all sucks?

Years ago, when I was listening for the Spirit to prompt me to a new place of worship, my husband and I happened to walk into a church where the pastor was preaching on the difference between The Law and Love.  I knew plenty about The Law, so I was interested in hearing what he had to said.  He told a personal story about being raised in a church that relied on The Law, and that when his parents were divorced in the 1940’s because of his father’s alcoholism, his mother, who had custody of the children, was not longer allowed to receive communion.  Divorce was a sin, no matter what.  Yet every Sunday his mother took her two sons to that same church, dropped them off for worship, sat in her car and prayed until they were through, at a time when she most needed her faith community.  The pastor vividly remembered all of this—the shame, the embarrassment, the exclusion, the indifference of his church, the consequences of The Law.  Yes, religion sucked at the time for him and made such an impact on him that he went to seminary in the same denomination, was ordained, and spent his vocation teaching about practicing Love over The Law, about how Love embraces those who are wounded, about how Love includes, not excludes, about how Love offers a mercy so deep and so wide that nothing we do can ever break that bond.  His message resonated with me and my own experiences and changed me that day.  We joined that particular church, and ten years later, I found myself called into ministry where I preached—and still preach—Love.  The Law has its place, but when we idolize it over God, we lose Love.

I wish I could have listened to that driver’s story.  I suspect it might be very similar to this pastor’s experience.  I wish for so many people that religion didn’t suck, but that within religion they might find an opening, a thin space, that leads them to experience being loved, just as they are, just because they are.

We all come from the same Divine Source, a source of Love.  When we look at what wounds us or offends us about religion, it usually has to do with how we, humans, have twisted and tried to control the gift given so freely to us because it is so hard for us to love.  What I am invited to do is to continue to believe in and practice Love where I can, as I can, and to tell anyone who comes along this blog that you, too, are loved.  Don’t let religion tell you otherwise. Blessings to you ~ Rosemary   20rosepoet20@gmail.com

Attic Wisdom

From the attic . . .

June 1, 2021

If you’ve ever expected a child, then you know something about the “nesting” period when suddenly you realize, instinctively, that the time is NOW to finish getting the nursery in order, counting the diapers, tidying up the house, and putting extra meals in the freezer because something waiting to be born is coming.  Lately, I’ve felt like I am back in the “nesting” period—though no baby is on the way—and that the time is NOW to put some things in order.  Part of that nesting is a current need to de-clutter, and my need led to the attic.

American attics are a sight to behold.  They certainly say much about our abundance, love for materialism, and our strange obsession to hold onto—or even hoard—so many things, which is a blog in itself.  But attics also reveal the history of our lives, including joys, lost dreams, love, and change.  At least that is what I discovered myself a couple of days ago as I began the challenging task of cleaning out our American attic.  What was I called to keep?  To give away?  To throw away?  To remember?

Some of the choices were simple, including computer satchels we had stored for computers we no longer own.  Why had we even kept them?  Or the suitcase that had been manhandled at the airport one too many times.  Why hadn’t I tossed that one earlier?  But there were other items that told stories of my life and the lives of those I love:

  • The punch bowl with its tea-cup sized glasses given to me in the early years of marriage by my mother-in-law who is now in her final stages of Alzheimer’s disease . . . . Every young woman needed a punch bowl to entertain properly, but gone are the days of hosting baby showers, and these days a metal tub holding beer and wine works just as well at parties.  Yet the punch bowl is a symbol of my mother-in-law’s constant love for me even as she forgets who I am.
  • The ceramic lamp fashioned into a Victorian-styled girl with two blonde braids painted by my aunt, for me, when I was twelve. . . . . I recall visiting her once a year on vacation and sitting in her musty, dusty ceramic shop where she invited me to choose anything I’d like to paint.  The ceramic angel I made there, hands folded, finished in a shiny cream glaze, sits on my desk, a reminder of my childhood and innocence long gone and an aunt, overweight and jolly, who paid attention to me.
  • The maroon trunk that my daughter used to take every year to summer camp. . . . . Why was it still in the attic?  When I opened the trunk, it was filled with her teen-aged summer shorts and t-shirts.  I shook out each piece and recalled what she looked like wearing it and how she acted and the pure joy she experienced at that special place.  Her journey has not been an easy one since then as she has traveled the road of depression, harassment, divorce, relocations, and I have cried many tears for my beautiful daughter with her courageous spirit and I have wondered why.  The clothes, all in good shape, will be given away, but the trunk stays for now, reminding me of her strength and perseverance and of all our distinct yet mutual journeys.
  • The car seat we have kept with hope since the birth of our first grandchild eight years ago . . . . My son and daughter-in-law expected and planned for a houseful of children.  But that’s not the way life has turned out.  It is a miracle, pure and simple, that they have a child and that we are blessed with a granddaughter, our one and only.  The car seat symbolizes acceptance of what is, and it is time to give it to someone else.

And so many other items and objects that are part of my life story, my personal history, that remind me of a time, a place, a person that is no longer.  As I take each item—the punch bowl, the lamp, the clothing, the car seat–to my car for delivery to a charity thrift store, I try to focus on two lessons:  the first is that The Creator has nudged me to create space, not only in my attic but more importantly in my heart, for whatever I know instinctively is waiting to be born.  The second lesson is to bless each item with gratitude for what it gave me, and now, for what it will give someone else as it becomes part of their own story.

I am reminded again in the wisdom of the attic that life is all about letting go:

A window closes
another story ends now
Open palms reach high

It is what all spiritual teachers try to prepare us for–letting go of what was, what could have been, what might have been, what did, in order to be open to whatever is waiting to be.  Our lives are not so much processes to be explained but mysteries to be lived, not with clutched hands and hearts because we fear loss, but with open hands and hearts because we trust.  Blessings to you ~ Rosemary  20rosepoet20@gmail.com.

Lakes, Chapels, God, and Prayer

Memorial Chapel, Lake Junaluska, North Carolina/Rosemary McMahan

May 25, 2021

We recently returned from western North Carolina where we had the opportunity to visit Lake Junaluska, situated in the heart of a Methodist Camp and Conference Center and surrounded by the Blue Ridge Mountains and numerous old shade trees.  If ever there were a place to commune with the Divine, by whatever name one calls it, Lake Junaluska is certainly at the top of the list. 

Memorial Chapel, Lake Junaluska, North Carolina/Rosemary McMahan

A friend had suggested that we visit Memorial Chapel, nested against the lakeshore.  The picturesque small stone church with a view of the placid lake through its arches calls for guests, for those who seek peace to come and sit inside and rest/pray awhile.  We approached a groundskeeper and asked if the chapel was open.  Her response was, “During Covid it was opened 24 hours a day for people to come in and pray, but now that things have gotten better, it is not opened as often.”  Then, half-embarrassed by the irony of her reply, she chuckled a bit, shrugged, and returned to watering the flowers.

Memorial Chapel, Lake Junaluska, North Carolina/Rosemary McMahan

My instant thought was, “Isn’t that just like human nature?”  I guess we didn’t need God anymore.  There we were, in the midst of a religious community, and the chapel was closed because things had “gotten better.”   I realized, again, how often we want God, Yahweh, Allah, Abba, Jesus, Divinity on our own terms, when we want it, when we need it.  I recalled the amazing increase in worship after 9/11, until we realized that—at least for a time—the terrorist attacks were over and life could return to somewhat normal.  The sky hadn’t fallen, yet, so God could be put on hold.  

Yet that notion is so contrary to at least three world religions.  Jesus Christ constantly modeled prayer.  Paul of the New Testament stated we should, “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances, ” (1 Thessalonians, verses 16-18).  Early in monastic life, the “Liturgy of the Hours” was developed that outlined seven times for prayer each day, following the Jewish example of seven times of prayer found in Psalm 119, verse 164:  “Seven times a day I praise you . . . ” Muslims are instructed to pray five times a day.  Nowhere is there a stipulation to pray only in a crisis.  We fickle humans seem to have invented that one ourselves.

The closed chapel also made me wonder how much we tend to use God, just like we sometimes use other people.  When we are in need of something bigger than us, or beyond our control, we cry out for help and healing, solace and sympathy.  When the crisis is over, we often forget our relationship with the Divine until another crisis or hard time hits.  We forget we are invited into a two-way relationship, one that includes awareness, intention, gratitude, and love from both partners, instead of a relationship where we treat the Divine (or the other) like a genie in a bottle.

Lake Junaluska, North Carolina/Rosemary McMahan

Certainly, we don’t need a chapel in order to commune with Love.  Sitting under a tree by the lake will work just as well as waiting at a red light in traffic.  Divine Love is all around us, simply waiting to be noticed and received.  Yet here was a chapel, dedicated for prayer and worship, closed because things had “gotten better,” and apparently people no longer felt an intense need to pray.  Perhaps Covid has gotten better here in the States, but not everywhere, and surely many more needs exist to be lifted up in prayer, along with many thanksgivings. How precious are the opportunities for sitting in the quiet company of God where often words are not even necessary.

Lake Junaluska, North Carolina/Rosemary McMahan

I’m very grateful that we visited Lake Junaluska.  I felt the presence of the Creator all around us.  More importantly, our brief chapel interlude presented me with an opportunity to reflect on my own prayer life and to admit how many times I turn to God in need and then allow God to fade away when things are going well.  I would like my heart to be a chapel that is open 24 hours a day, inviting God in, not only in the difficult times, but in the peaceful, as well.   Blessings ~ Rosemary  20rosepoet20@gmail.com

Showing Up

May mountain laurel / Rosemary McMahan

May 15, 2021

“Life is difficult.”  That three-word truth is the sentence that opens The Road Less Traveled, M. Scott Peck’s well-known book integrating spiritual and psychological insights.  It doesn’t sound like a welcoming beginning, though it certainly sets the stage for an exploration into spiritual and psychological growth.  Admit it.  Life is difficult.  Once we have admitted it, then we can learn how to navigate it.

Writing is difficult.  At times, I wonder why I bother.  Other times, I tend to become frustrated and want to give up when I encounter a subject that eludes my art medium:  words.  Take, for instance, mountain laurel.  Where I live, in the southeastern United States, the shrub is in full glory.  It tends to grow in the most difficult places—on arid, rocky shorelines or tangled up in dense forests.  Every single part of it is toxic.  And yet, and yet, its blossoms enchant me, and I want to share that enchantment . . . but words don’t suffice . . . and I’m a writer and poet and so what do I do?  It’s difficult.

Prayer is difficult.  I believe in a Creator, The Creator, who is much greater than I am.  I believe in Divine Love and that that Love is greater than all of us and loves more compassionately and generously than we can.  And yet, and yet, at times I don’t want to sit still, embrace silence, allow myself to be looked at and held in Love.  Sometimes the love feels more like absence.  It’s difficult.

Relationships are difficult.  Name one that isn’t.  Being a daughter, I have mother issues.  (I’d like to find a daughter who doesn’t.)  Being a wife, I have some spouse issues.  Being a sibling, I have some “family of origin” issues.  Being a friend, I have some friend issues.  Yet I love all of these people, and trying to juggle all the pieces sometimes is difficult.  Life is difficult.

So what is the answer?  Avoidance?  Escape?  Giving up?  No, the answer is to show up anyway.  When the writing, or crafting, get tough, we show up and do it anyway.  When prayer is tough, we show up to sit there in the silence and simply be.  Again and again.  When the relationship gets tough, we show up to give the other the gift of presence.  We show up, again and again.

Showing up is a spiritual discipline that can be traced to one of the vows the earliest of monks took:  the vow of stability.  To vow stability meant that the monk would stay where he was, in his particular monastery, and when life got difficult with his work, his craft, his spiritual journey, his brothers in community, he would not take off to look for an easier, simpler path.  He would stay put, and show up, and learn how to get past the difficulties.

Our world doesn’t offer much support for showing up to situations that are difficult or uncomfortable, but it is through these situations that we learn to grow, to trust, to create, to love, and to reach beyond ourselves.  Life is difficult.  That is true.  It is equally true that each difficulty has the opportunity to be a blessing. When we show up, we not only gift ourselves, but we gift others, as well.

So, I faced the mountain laurel because though it is difficult and toxic, it is also magical and wondrous.  My words are limited, my painting half-done, but I showed up.  I hope you will, too.  Blessings ~ Rosemary 20rosepoet20@gmail.com

Mountain Laurel

If you wish to forget yourself
seek out the mountain laurel
in mid-May when its pillowing buds
give way to the coaxing of the light.

Seek out the mountain laurel
on sandy, rocky slopes or Appalachian woods
in the wild places and lose yourself
in pale white blossoms tinged pink.

Listen while the blossoms like clusters
of small ringing bells on May Day
raise their bright tipped stamen
to catapult pollen upon each passing insect.

Notice how each bright tipped stamen
looks like delicate stitching
placed there by the hand of God or Gaia
on thick sturdy limbs gnarled like ancient fingers.

Kalmia latifolia, Freckles, Little Linda,
and Pink Charm will paint swathes of seduction
on sandy, rocky slopes or Appalachian woods
where you might imagine fairies would live.

If you wish to forget yourself
surrender to the coaxing of the light
and go seek out mountain laurel
in mid-May and bow your head in wonder.

© Rosemary McMahan

Let There Be . . .

Light (c) Rosemary McMahan

May 7, 2021

“In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth,  the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters.  Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light.”  So begins the story of creation in the Judeo-Christian scriptures.  In the middle of darkness and chaos, the Creator calls light into being.

As I look at our world today, I see so much darkness—the unending consequences of a global pandemic; the horror in India and in other countries still caught in Covid’s grasp; deep political, ethical, and moral division in the States; a lack of concern for what kind of environment, what kind of creation, we will leave not-so-distant generations; prejudices and biases coming forth in all their ugliness and woundedness, and much more.  Often in the face of so many shadows, I can feel hopeless, defeated.  After all, what can one person do to change the world so that it becomes as the Creator intended, attuned to Divine Love and abiding within the welcome and compassion of the Creator’s heart?  One answer is that the person can imitate the Creator and simply create.

As a poet who paints not by numbers but by words, I believe that art can, indeed, change the world by touching the heart and offering hope.  The act of creation can become the light that shines in the darkness, so that when all we can see is darkness, we can turn our eyes toward a poem, a painting, a sculpture, a garden, a beautifully laid table, a piece of woodwork, a quilt, a single yellow rose in a vase and remember where we come from and who we are.  Within us is ruach, the ancient breath that blew across the waters and ignited the light and which still blows, kindles, and ignites.  We are all creators of some sort, and the world needs us now.

If you are reading this blog, you are either a blogger yourself or a friend or relative.  You appreciate words and so writing may be your craft.  Then please write.  Maybe you paint, or you know the exact corner in which to place a chair so that the light catches it patterns.  Then paint and decorate. Perhaps you garden, and your light is found in tending each plant that delights our sight.  Thank you. Or you have the skill of cooking, which I do not, but which I greatly appreciate when it is shared.  Maybe you are an engineer or doctor or other technical person and your art is turning technology into miracles.  I appreciate you. We all have the ability to create because we are made in the image of THE Creator, who created out of nothing but desire and love, who created in order to bring Light into darkness.

So, I encourage you to take the leap of faith and scatter your creative seeds wherever they may land, on whomever they may land.  If you are creating, please continue. Production and success are not what matter—only the offerings of beauty, love, and light.  ~ Blessings, Rosemary

Promise

Everything you need is promised
in the single leap of faith
to trust the direction of your heart
and commit to it with wonder.

In the single leap of faith
jump into your art with desire
and commit to it with wonder
make vow to the journey of yourself.

Jump into your art with desire
no experience, expertise, or outside voices
make vow to the journey of yourself
as it weaves its way into creation.

No experience, expertise, or outside voices
to snag you or hold you back
trust the direction of your heart
everything you need is promised.

© Rosemary McMahan

A Time to Keep

Garden Benches (C) Rosemary McMahan

April 30, 2021

“A time to keep, and a time to throw away.” Eccl. 3: 6

A few days ago, we entertained a couple in our home for dinner—a couple we had not seen in well over a year due to the pandemic.  On the one hand, the experience felt surreal, and on the other, it felt like we had picked up right where we left off, as if the pandemic had been some kind of time warp.

After catching up on our lives over the past thirteen months (not that there was a lot to tell), our friend asked a question.  He said, “What it is that you want to keep from this pandemic experience, that you don’t want to lose as we go back to our routines?”  I found his question thought-provoking and deserving of reflection.  As I have mentioned in a couple of former blogs, I believe that the pandemic gave all of us, the global community, a time to reassess and reconsider how we want to spend our lives and who we want to be, who we want our communities, our nations, our world to be.  The four of us shared our various thoughts, and a common thread was a desire to keep a sense of discernment before jumping right back into all those obligations and commitments, to weigh what and who are life-giving and what and who are not, to decide where and with whom we are called to expend energy, and where and with whom we are not.  In other words, we have been given the opportunity to decide, with love and wisdom, what time to keep and what time to let go.

After reflecting on the conversation, the well-known passage from Ecclesiastes Chapter Three of the Old Testament came to mind.  The Book of Ecclesiastes is considered part of the “Wisdom” tradition of Hebrew Scripture and is thought to have been written sometime between c. 450–200 BCE, over two thousand years ago. The first eight verses state that there is a time and a season for every aspect and experience of human life.  Plagues and pandemics and political upheaval were as much a part of life then as they are now, and the author knew something of what he wrote.  As he pairs each experience, each time and season, he invites us to discern, to listen with our hearts, to the seasons that we are in and to perhaps even discover a blessing, or at least a reassurance, that there is something to be learned, a gift to be received.  Who we are as we exit each season says something about how we lived through it.

We have been in a long and, in parts of the world, continuing season of dying, of weeping, of not touching, of silence, and we are all ready for it to end, but what will we keep without rushing back to a normal that no longer really exists?  What has become something unexpectedly precious to us?  What is one insight, one observation, one “ah ha!” moment, one touch of the heart, one glimpse of the Divine One, one understanding that gently unfolded for us and has the capacity to make us more loving and our lives more sacred?  Those are questions worth our reflection; those are questions that can transform us, and, in turn, transform the world.  Blessings to you ~ Rosemary

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:
a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
a time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up;
a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
a time to throw away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
a time to seek, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to throw away;
a time to tear, and a time to sew;
a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
a time to love, and a time to hate;
a time for war, and a time for peace.

Re-emergence

April 23, 2021

The novelist Alice Walker writes, “Look closely at the present you are constructing.  It should look like the future you are dreaming.”  I find myself reflecting on her advice as I come out of a year of enforced hibernation and squint at the sun in my eyes.  Here in the States, and in particular my own state, even while Covid-19 still thrives, it feels as if the gates have been opened and the race horses are ready to charge.  Where restaurants were once closed or offered only take-out, now they are open and serving dinners, some at full capacity.  Where once grocery stores and big box stores limited the number of shoppers, now people stream, uncounted, in and out.  Places of worship have opened back up, some no longer enforcing social distancing or masking, and, in my own state, there is no longer a requirement that we wear masks in public.  It’s all optional.  Just as quickly as our world shut down, locked down, it now is opening itself up as fast as it can.  And I am not ready.

Part of my reluctance to charge forth is that Covid is still here, and not in its original form.  Just as it is a “novel” virus, so too are the vaccinations.  Many questions still remain to be answered about how long our protection lasts and from what variants we are protected, along with whether the virus will pick up steam as people return to gatherings.   I am one of the fortunate vaccinated people and, yes, there is a huge sigh of relief that comes with that, but also still some caution.

More of my reticence, however, stems from the fact that somewhere along the way, I got used to staying home.  While it wasn’t optimal, Zoom interactions with friends and family sufficed in the face of their distance.  Twice a month shopping trips for groceries became the norm as I avoided crowds, and I learned to live with longer hair and no new piece of clothing.  Being at home every night, while at first anxiety-inducing, began to offer its own rhythm and security as I realized how busy I had been simply trying to stay busy.  I am not saying I prefer being locked-down.  No, I want choices like every other human, but I also want to be careful about how and what and who I choose instead of joining the human “race” again just because I can.

In some ways, I feel like a pup licking its wounds before it can play again.  And wounds we have.  The New York Times quotes Yale epidemiologist Gregg Gonsalves as saying, “We’ve been so traumatized by all of this.  I think we need to have a little bit of compassion for the people having trouble letting go.”  Healing from trauma takes time. We all have lost something or someone in the past thirteen months, including our freedom and missed opportunities.  We have lost unity as a nation, steadfastness in science, dignity in politicians, and too many of us have lost friends and family, through death from Covid, physical distance, lack of keeping in contact, or political dissention.  Even the Earth that at least had a chance to breathe during lockdown is again being exploited and trampled.  I am not ready to accept that kind of race as my future.  Instead, I believe compassion is a gift we can share as we each discern how to make our way in this new world.

So I ask my family, my friends, my community, my world for compassion, allowing me to unfold like a first spring fern, in my own time and in my own way as we all re-emerge.  Some of us will be a little slower in getting back to what was routine as we feel our way forward and discern where we are headed, with whom, and why.   We seek compassion from others to loosen their expectations of us and allow us to emerge, to unfold, as our hearts guide us, not as the world does.  We are creating a future together, hopefully a better one than what we left behind, as we pause to step out of the door.

Re-emergence

Like a fern unfolding in early spring
or a bear stirring in the shadows of its den
or even like a child cautiously leaving
the corner she was forced to endure
I ponder my steps as I re-enter a world
now altered by a single unseen virus.
Around me, like horses pawing and snorting
at the starting gate
and springing forth at the clanging of the bell,
humanity rushes forward as restrictions
fall way and protocols fade into normalcy
though all around us normal no longer
exists. Whatever might have been unveiled,
appreciated, gauged, during enforced
hibernation soon falls to the sidewalk
like so many discarded masks while people
clamor to eat their burgers, choose their new shoes,
cheer from bleachers, stream into places of worship
to worship . . . what? What new eyes will we keep,
what changed ears will we use, what brave communities
will we build, what fresh yearnings
will nudge us in a different direction from what
and where and who we were before? Or,
unthinking, will we simply race, once again
skimming the surface, skirting the edges
of all that could take us deeper
to the core of Love and Gratitude
and our very Being?
I hold my hand against the sun
streaming over my threshold and pause,
one hand holding onto wisdom
while the other reaches for
return.

© Rosemary McMahan

The Year that Wasn’t

New oak leaves.

April 16, 2021

Recently I had the opportunity, after over a year, to visit a friend and have a cup of tea with her.  As we conversed about the ongoing pandemic, she referred to 2020 as “the year that wasn’t.”  At first I thought that was a clever and succinct summary of 2020 when the world was locked away in fear and all its usual activities upended and canceled.  In many regards, it did indeed feel like the year that wasn’t, a year that put most things on hold, a wasted year.  Yet the more I pondered that summary, the more it rubbed against me.  I don’t want to come out of that time as if it were all for nothing; I want to come out of that time as a new creation.

The Franciscan monk Richard Rohr spends much conversation and writing on “The Transformative Journey,” the three stages of what I call times of “unraveling”:  1. Order; 2. Disorder; 3. Reorder.  Order is the period of time when we are living our lives without much awareness.  Everything is going okay.  We are in charge and self-sufficient.  We have our calendars, meetings, and agendas, and our attention is on how productive we are as we await affirmations and raises and the next step up a ladder that leads to more significance in society’s eyes.  And then, something happens, something we have absolutely no control over, and the floor gives way beneath us and the sky falls upon us and everything we know unravels.  The pandemic was/is a time of that exact disorder.

We could, of course, remain stuck in the disorder.  We could come out of the pandemic returning to our original order, which is what I fear most of the world will do.  We will go back to our routines, our schedules, our unawareness and self-sufficiency, reliant on ourselves, not on Divine Love, the Source that runs through all of these seasons.  We will want things to be the way they’ve always been because it’s more comfortable that way, and in making those choices, the poor will remain poor, the rich will remain rich, the marginalized and oppressed will stay as they are, power will continue to corrupt, worship will be stale, creation will be plundered, and Love will be an empty word.

But there is another way, the harder way.  We can refuse to go back to the year that wasn’t and the false order that existed before it.  We can take time to reflect on who we have become in these past thirteen months and who we want to be.  We can ask, “What was so great about how things were?  Do we really want all of that again?”  We can discern what and who we are willing to give our time and attention to, and what and who we are not.  We can take back our voices and speak out against what isn’t of Love.  In entering reorder, we can seek what Rohr describes in this stage:  “A mysterious and graced experience of God’s presence can be tasted and increasingly frees the will to be aligned with God’s will for the love and healing of the world.”

Love and healing, seeds planted in the year that wasn’t, seeds of possibility for new beginnings and new creations.  We have been given an opportunity to nurture those seeds together, to water them with Divine Love, and to allow them to spread from our own hearts, our own love and healing for ourselves, out into the world.  We don’t have to go back to “normal” because normal wasn’t working.  Instead, we can be agents of resurrection working with the Creator of All and turn the pandemic into blessing.

Blessings to you for new creation. ~ Rosemary

Friday of Holy Week: Love

April 2, 2021

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.  1 Cor. 13:13

Crucifixion, Basilica de la Sagrada Familia, Barcelona, Spain

Sadhu Sundar Singh was an Indian Christian, evangelist, and mystic who lived in the early part of the 20th century and often trekked through the Himalayan mountains to share the good news of the love of Jesus Christ with remote villagers.  He told the following story of how creation can reflect the love of Christ, especially in suffering, which is appropriate this Good Friday as we continue to rise from ashes in order to bring love to our deepest selves and into the world, no matter the cost:

“Once, as I traveled through the Himalayas, there was a great forest fire. Everyone was frantically trying to fight the fire, but I noticed a group of men standing and looking up into a tree that was about to go up in flames. When I asked them what they were looking at, they pointed up at a nest full of young birds. Above it, the mother bird was circling wildly in the air and calling out warnings to her young ones. There was nothing she or we could do, and soon the flames started climbing up the branches.

As the nest caught fire, we were all amazed to see how the mother bird reacted. Instead of flying away from the flames, she flew down and settled on the nest, covering her little ones with her wings. The next moment, she and her nestlings were burnt to ashes. None of us could believe our eyes. I turned to those standing by and said: ‘We have witnessed a truly marvelous thing. God created that bird with such love and devotion, that she gave her life trying to protect her young. If her small heart was so full of love, how unfathomable must be the love of her Creator. That is the love that brought him down from heaven to become man. That is the love that made him suffer a painful death for our sake.’”

I cannot say anything more or better than the Sadhu has done in this parable.  My faith and my hope are grounded on the conviction that it is that kind of love, lived out in us, that will save us from ourselves and save our world.  It is that kind of love expressed by the people I choose to follow and emulate. It is that kind of sacrificial and unconditional love that the resurrection is about.

We end our Lenten journey with this blog today to sit in the silence that Good Friday invites.  I thank you, those I know and those I have never met, for sharing part of the walk with me.  May resurrections abound in your own lives, and may we all recognize each new beginning as gift from the Divine Source who created us simply out of desire.  May we each be brave enough to love. Blessings ~ Rosemary

Resurrection, Basilica de la Sagrada Familia, Barcelona, Spain

Wednesday of Holy Week: Hope

March 31, 2021

Bath Abbey, Great Britain

Midway through Holy Week, consider the millions, if not billions, of prayers lifted by candleflame through the ages.  The steadfastness of the flame offers the comfort of hope as its smoke wafts toward heaven, a visual sign that our prayer is being lifted, noticed, even heard.  Our control is released and entrusted to the Creator of All.

In a similar way, Holy Week is a prayer lifted to heaven.  We have endured the rigors of Lent, of the transitional season, not just for the past six weeks but for the past year.  We have witnessed what Christ witnessed two thousand years ago when he taught us to pray—his beloved children on the boundaries, the marginalized, the broken, the poor, the bereft, the sick, the dying, the homeless—begging to be noticed, to be significant, to have their prayers heard.  And in our inward journeys, we have recognized our broken and neglected places, our shadows and light, also seeking to be heard and healed.

The reality of Holy Week is that we cannot fully appreciate healing, resurrection, or fulfilled hope if we haven’t first entered our own gardens of uncertainty, disillusionment, and fear.  We cannot rise from the ashes if we, like Christ, don’t raise our emptied hands in acceptance and trust.  Just as the journey to the cross was not an easy one, neither is the journey of transformation, within ourselves and without in our world.  And so we pray. When we, like Christ, surrender to the unknown in trust and love, and move forward with opened arms, we discover the same Divine Love found in Christ.  In our Holy of Holies, in our deepest deep, lies the core of hope, the hope that resurrection and new life do happen and will happen. 

The final meal still awaits.  So do the bitter garden of tears, and betrayal, the unjust system, the deceitful politics, the humiliation and the sacrifice.   We pray Holy Week when we lift in prayers of hope all those whom Christ came to serve, when we lift our own brokenness, knowing that Jesus Christ experienced and felt much of the same. We pray Holy Week when we seek the wisdom and courage to end the unjust systems and corrupt politics that make gods of power and greed. May we finish this journey with Christ as a prayer wafting to heaven, reflecting on the words found in Hebrews 6: 18b-19:  “Hold fast to the hope that lies before us.  This we have as an anchor of the soul, sure and firm, which reaches into the interior behind the veil.”  Blessings ~ Rosemary